Monday, February 24, 2020

Fighting With My Family (2019)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Fighting with my Family (2019)
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Length: 108 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Channel Four Films, Film4, Misher Films, Seven Bucks Productions, WWE Studios, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists Releasing, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures International, Universal Pictures International, Universal Pictures, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, The Ink Factory, Misher Films, Andes Films, CinemArt, Eagle Pictures, Filmagic Entertainme, Forum Film Bulgaria, Forum Hungary, Gulf Film, Lionsgate UK, Lionsgate, Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Myndform, NOS Audiovisuais, Parco Co. Ltd., Sabay MVP, Sony Pictures Releasing, Svensk Filmindustri, Times Media Films, Tulip Entertainment
Director: Stephen Merchant
Writer: Stephen Merchant
Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Vince Vaughn, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Stephen Merchant, Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Paul Wight, Saraya-Jade Bevis, Stephen Farrelly, John Cena, Thea Trinidad, Leah Harvey, Hannah Rae, Julia Davis, Aqueela Zoll

Blurb from IMDb: A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment.

Selina’s Point of View:
I used to be a fan of the WWE back when it was known as WWF. Sometimes my cousin’s family from his dad’s side would get tickets for a big show and they’d gift it to us at Christmas. So, I got to see a lot of great matches that most people only hear about as history. As a result, I followed it pretty closely for a while. Even got friends together on Monday nights to watch Raw and eat pizza.

A lot of my friends still follow it, including the Basement Bookers. If you haven’t heard their podcast, you should go check them out at: I’m not apologizing for the shameless plug. Click the damn link.

Around the time they split Raw and Smackdown was when I fell off, but I still have a soft spot for wrestling. It’s not exactly something I’d turn off if someone put it on while they were visiting, and my daughter knows how to do a pretty good frog splash. She practices it every night when I try to put her to bed. But I digress.

Needless to say, I wasn’t a hardcore fan by the time Paige signed with the WWE. Even still, I knew who she was. For her reach to extend beyond wrestling fans, she had to have been pretty influential.

Even with the minimal knowledge I had, the trailer for Fighting with my Family hooked me instantly.

We could talk about the amazing cast, featuring: Nick Frost (The Nevers, Into the Badlands, Sick Note), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones, The Flood, Thumper), Florence Pugh (Malevolent, Midsommar, Little Women), Jack Lowden (Calibre, Dunkirk, England is Mine), Vince Vaughn (F is for Family, True Detective, Hacksaw Ridge), and Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: The Next Level, Ballers, Skyscraper). I don’t think any of that matters, though. The story that the writer, Stephen Merchant (The Office, Extras, Comedy Lab), created from Paige’s rise to the WWE was interesting enough that a bunch of muppets could have gotten me invested. (Not that the people involved weren’t phenomenal – because they were.)

I wasn’t expecting to catch the amount of feels I caught. I had my preconceived notions about what the movie would be like and who Paige was, and the film set me straight.

You expect that it’s going to have an inspirational, ‘follow your dreams’ feel to it. That’s how the trailer portrayed it – and that wasn’t wrong, it was just a lot more than that. What really threw me off was that it was also a film about learning how to live through failure.

Everyone wants to reach for the stars. Not everyone gets there and Fighting with my Family goes into that. Watching Lowden play Paige’s brother is just as important as watching Pugh as Paige. And even with the story flipping back and forth, it never lost me. It was a film that was almost two hours long about a subject I only barely cared about, and it kept me engulfed the entire time.

I expected to be ready to recommend this flick to wrestling fans. I didn’t expect that I would think the target demographic stretched well beyond that – and it does.

All-in-all, it was a great movie.

Cat’s Point of View:
When this movie released, my family and I were excited to watch it as soon as we could. I grew up watching wrestling with my Dad - though, back then it was WCW and WWF before corporate buy-outs and legal actions evolved the logo into the WWE it is today. Old-school wrestling for me was enjoying characters like Captain Lou Albano, Junkyard Dog, Sting with blonde short hair and red, white, and blue face paint (way before his days looking like The Crow (1994). I watched Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling (1985-1986) on Saturday mornings and giggled over Trivial Pursuit questions about Ultimate Warrior and The Macho Man.

Over the years, I haven’t watched as faithfully as when I was little. My husband turned out to be interested in the entertaining sport as well. Neither of us are rabid fans, but we do try to make it to any of the live shows that come through town, and watch on a semi-regular basis.

That being said, it’s always fun for me to get a peek behind the curtain, if you will, of the wrestling industry. Of course, there are several shows that have been on television over the years that have given their own perspectives – such as the show focusing on Divas, the spin-offs focusing on specific wrestlers, and WWE Tough Enough (2001-2015). None of those are quite the same experience you get with this movie.

I loved how accurately Fighting With My Family portrays the rollercoaster it takes to chase your dreams. There are peaks and valleys, and when you get enough momentum going you can lose yourself if you don’t watch out.

There are so many touching moments and heartbreaking as well – though everything is leveled out with a deft sprinkling of comedy. Nothing’s too over-the-top. It’s a story of triumph just as much as it is one of perseverance in the face of failure. I appreciate the tale all the more because it’s not sugar-coated. Kids need to see that not every success story happens with Disney magic. There’s a lot of sweat equity and tears involved more often than not.

The cast was phenomenal. There were moments that I forgot that Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth, The Commuter, Outlaw King) wasn’t actually Paige. Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, The Huntsman: Winter's War, Slaughterhouse Rulez) only underscored why he’s one of my favorite current Brit comedians. Lena Headey (The Purge, 300: Rise of an Empire, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) had me forgetting for the length of this film how much I loathed her character from Game of Thrones (2011-2019). I digress.

I have to take my proverbial hat off to the collaboration between Dwayne Johnson (Snitch, Hercules, Baywatch) and writer/director Stephen Merchant (Tooth Fairy, The Office, Cemetery Junction) in getting this project off the ground and onto screens everywhere.

While I feel that wrestling fans will get far more from the experience of this film, it’s certainly a tale that could be relatable to others not well-versed with the ‘WWE Universe.’ I wouldn’t mind giving this one a recommendation any time.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 82%
Metascore – 68/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.2/10
IMDB Score – 7.1/10
CinemaScore – A-

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

P.S. During the credits, there are clips shown from the 2012 UK documentary titled The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, which is said to have inspired The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) to spearhead the production of this film.

Movie Trailer:

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